How to smash through writers’ block

As old as the written word itself, writers’ block – that fog of paralysing disquiet – has always troubled the great and the good. From Hemingway to Tolstoy to Woolf, they all came down with it at some point. That prolific producer of enormous books himself, Stephen King, once said that the “scariest moment is always just before you start [writing]. After that, things can only get better.”And he’s right. But it’s not always easy.

We asked you for your tips for chopping the block and getting your words out and, as ever, you were full of ideas…

Susanna of A Modern Mother says: “Take a TOTAL break, and come back with fresh eyes/ new energy. Put pen to paper and just keep writing, without lifting your pen, paying no attention to what you write. Eventually something good comes out of it.”

Crystal Jigsaw recommends punishment to kick you up the bum: “Do the ironing, clean the bathroom, hoover all through the house – believe me, after an hour of house work, your writer’s block will definitely be cured!”

Nickie @ Typecast has a no-nonsense fail safe: “Walk away.  Completely away.”

Joanne Mallon, an experienced freelance journalist, life and career coach, recommends doing something physical. “Exercise, go for a walk, take a shower, make a cake or knead some dough.

“If you switch your focus to what you’re doing rather than what you’re thinking, it gives the mind space to create something new.”

Joanne points out that writers’ block is often more prevalent when there is no deadline, and she has put together an excellent post on getting the words to flow again.

Which techniques work best for you? Has anyone ever imposed their own deadline, just to see if it helps, and what’s the longest a spell of writers block has lasted? How did you eventually slay that dragon? 


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About Holly Seddon

Holly Seddon is a writer, editor and community consultant and helped launched the community for Adoption UK, which won charity website of the year just 9 months later. She also writes a music blog.


  1. 08 August 2011 / 13:23

    If you’re not away from your computer screen taking part in this thing we call “life” you’re not going to have any experiences on which to draw from when you write. Turn the computer off, go out and live a little.

  2. 08 August 2011 / 16:35

    When I have a block of any kind I try and actually use some of the coaching I have inflicted on others. If I don’t know what to do (write), I ask myself the question:
    “What would I do (write) if I did know?”
    This technique works because it moves the brain away from the obstacle and starts to find possible solutions. I have yet to suffer from writers’ block as my brain teems with material and ideas which will last me to the grave, I think, although I do understand other kinds of impasse.

  3. 08 August 2011 / 17:55

    All these tips are excellent and I will be trying them when I suffer my next bout! Thanks for this.

  4. 08 August 2011 / 18:51

    Thank you for the great comments. You’re so right, Alex, writing reflects and is inspired by life so we need to let life happen!
    And HerMelnessSpeaks – I love this technique, I’m definitely going to try it.

  5. 08 August 2011 / 23:25

    HerMelness always speaks sense. I want to shrink her down, keep her in my pocket and have her advise me on everything in my life.